Melvin Dubin, who more than a half-century ago scraped together $5,000 and started a baseboard radiator manufacturing company that his family says is "as Kleenex is to tissues" in its industry, had a heart attack in his sleep and died Sept. 17 at his home in Great Neck. He was 92.
Dubin was also an Army veteran who studied engineering and worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in an effort to develop the first atomic bomb during World War II. He later dabbled in politics, running twice unsuccessfully for public office in Brooklyn.
Dubin founded the American Slant Fin Radiator Corp. in Coney Island, Brooklyn, in 1949 and it began supplying commercial finned-tube radiators and residential baseboard products to homeowners in the booming postwar era.
The design, slanted with interlock fins to provide strength and extra heating ability, was an engineering innovation. The business, now Slant/Fin Corp., moved to various locations in Brooklyn and Queens as it grew. In 1965, Dubin built its current location in Greenvale.
"It was a good design," said Dubin's son, Adam Dubin, 51, of Brooklyn, now chairman of the company. "Sixty-plus years, and we're still selling it. It became so successful, people say, 'Hand me a "Slant Fin," ' like you'd say 'Q-Tip.' "
Melvin Dubin was born in 1923 in Brooklyn to Russian immigrant parents. He attended Townsend Harris High School before entering the U.S. Army in 1943. He was then assigned to the military staff at Los Alamos as a technician on the Manhattan Project. After his discharge, he received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from New York University.
He married Eleanor in 1961 in Brooklyn. She died in 2007.
In 1965, Dubin, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for city comptroller and in 1968 for Congress. Among the volunteers in that effort was a young Chuck Schumer, a Harvard Law School student who knocked on doors for Dubin, impressed with his anti-Vietnam War stance. A Schumer spokesman confirmed that account with the U.S. senator.
Dubin's daughter, Nina, then an 18-year-old senior at Great Neck North High School, died in a car crash in 1985. Dubin "soldiered on," diving deeper into his charitable work -- chiefly as an advocate for Israel -- but still, his daughter's death loomed large. "In ways, it shattered all of us," Adam Dubin said.
Melvin Dubin served as chairman of American Friends of the Israel Museum of Science and Technology in Manhattan and was a member of the board of sponsors of Holocaust Publications and a founder of Israel Hospital Fund.
Dubin cared greatly for his employees, his son said. When he started the business, a man who had lost a hand in an accident came to apply for a job, trying to conceal the disability. Dubin noticed but gave him a chance. The man went on to become foreman and worked for the company for 40 years.
In more recent years, Dubin once used his connections as a member of the board of trustees for North Shore Long Island Jewish to help an employee diagnosed with prostate cancer get a quick appointment with a specialist.
"It was just the kind of person he was and the kind of thing he did," Adam Dubin said. "It's one thing to have power, it's another how you use it. It's very nice when you can spread the wealth a little bit and I think Mel did that in a lot of ways."
In addition to his son, Dubin is survived by his daughter-in-law and two granddaughters.